Tuesday, June 12, 2012

High School Playoff Baseball: Sonora vs. Bushland

SonoraBaseball05 This post is a bit late, but I wanted to go ahead and get it out there and off my list of things to do. A few Fridays ago I was assigned to shoot Game 2, and if need be, Game 3 of the Region I-2A championship baseball series between the Sonora Broncos and the Bushland Falcons in Abilene. Bushland was the defending regional champion from last year so Sonora was supposed to have a tough go of it. But after a heroic 11-7 Game 1 victory Thursday night, the Broncos were sitting pretty for Game 2 Friday morning.

I love shooting out-of-town playoff games. The atmosphere is always a little more electric, the fans cheer a little louder and the players play a little harder. That Friday was no different. Game 2 was slated to begin at 11:00am and the temperature had not yet reached the 90-degree mark just yet, thankfully. I know I've voiced my displeasure with the game of baseball, extensively, but I have to admit, as much as I don't want to, I do enjoy playoff high school baseball. There, I said it. It will be the last time. Game 2 started off a bit slow with Bushland taking a 2-1 lead after the first inning, but Sonora came back to lead 3-2 after the third. Unfortunately, that's where Sonora would leave it. Bushland, the two-time defending regional champions, scored another six runs to end the game with a 8-3 win and force a third and final game. SonoraBaseball04 SonoraBaseball03 SonoraBaseball01I was really hoping, just like every Sonora fan, that the Broncos would win Game 2 and that would be the end of it. It was not to be. I got about an hour to rest, grab a bit to eat and a quick catnap before Game 3 started. It was another slow-starting game with Bushland leading 3-2 after three innings. But things got interesting in the fifth inning. First, I nearly got beaned by a worm-burning foul ball up the third base line. I broke my rule of never going inside the fence while covering a baseball or softball game. I guess I was just feeling lucky and/or invincible having not been in harm's way all season so I thought to myself, "Why not? What's the worst that could happen?" Never again. Secondly, Sonora started to make a comeback, trailing 5-3 after the fifth. Then the Broncos tied the game 5-5 in the sixth inning. Remember, high school baseball only goes seven innings.

Bushland tacked on three more runs to jump ahead 8-5. This was not what Sonora was hoping would happen, but such is life. I could tell that the mood in dugout started to decline as the team ran off the field to go on offense. Sonora needed to score four runs to stay alive in the post-season, but fell short of the task, losing 8-5. And with that, the Standard-Times' high school sports coverage came to an end for the summer. Sure, we'll do our own All-West Texas teams and do profiles on local players who did well this season, but as far as covering actual games, this was it. This year's high school season was pretty cool, the highlight for me being the Class 1A state football game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. The 2012 football season can't get here soon enough. SonoraBaseball06 SonoraBaseball02

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Around the Track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indy01 So after the campsite was set up, Thursday was pretty much just a day of rest. But, Friday through the end of the week we spent ample time at the track and in Gasoline Alley, the garage area at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I find myself conflicted every time I walk through the garages between getting photos or grabbing autographs of the drivers on the off chance they are walking through. I've been told that the best time to talk with and get autographs of the drivers is the week before the race. The atmosphere is a bit more relaxed and there are less people in the garages to deal with. By the time I get there three days before the race most of the teams are too focused on the pending race that they spend most of their time in seclusion except for the mandatory appearances they are required to make.

Friday is usually the day that I'll come across more drivers willing to hang with fans. Not wanting to pass up an opportunity to get a photo, I'll try and get a few snaps before they walk off. But, I also want to get an autograph either on that year's official program or ticket stub, but they move so fast through the crowd signing their name to just about anything that's put in front of them that I usually don't have the time to get both. This year unfortunately I was only able to one autograph, that of Simona de Silvestro, who was black flagged from the race before even running 10 laps in this year's race. It's a nice autograph to have, but as far as this year was concerned, it's not much. I mostly took photos of the drivers I came across.Indy04 Indy05 Indy02 Indy08I did get to experience something a little different this year at the track that was pretty cool. I had pit passes that got me on the track on Friday and Saturday and up to an hour before the race on Sunday. My father-in-law, Ray, who got me started on this crazy train of IndyCar fanaticism back in 2006, had another of one of his random/unbelievable/awesome meetings with some Indy legend and got all kinds of special passes from the guy. I wish I could remember who it was, but he hooked Ray up with the pit and garage passes. I made good use of the pit pass on Friday during the annual Pit Stop Challenge which allows pit crews for the various teams to go head-to-head and earn a little extra money for themselves. It's also a nice way to get up close and personal with the cars and drivers. It really is amazing just how fast these guys move around the cars to get the tires changed and fuel cell filled. Target/Chip Ganassi driver Scott Dixon and his crew won the $50,000 prize this year.

Saturday at the track was a lot like Friday, but with less drivers walking around and track activity. The day before the race is pretty quiet. Most of the day was spent under "The Tree" at the campsite eatin', drinkin' and pitchin' washers. Sunday, for obvious reasons, is the busiest day at the track. Again, I used the pit pass to get on the track and into the garage area before the race. I left the campsite with my buddy Gordon for the track around 8:30am. We wanted to take a few laps through the garage to get any last minute photos of drivers before we made our way through the pit area. I was not ready for the zoo of people we would have to cut our way through in the pits to get decent photos. Not to mention that there was a high probability of record-breaking temperatures and even at 10:00am I was already sweating through my shirt. But, it was a great opportunity to be around the pre-race action. Around 10:30am we sought out some shade and one of those "misting stations" that had been set up around the track before making our way to our seats in the Northwest Vista. In all, it was a great week of camping capped off by a race that got real interesting around Lap 100. Dario Franchitti won his third Indy 500 under caution after Takuma Sato lost control of his car on the final lap in Turn 1. After the race my buddies Chris and Jimmy and I packed up the truck and began the long journey back to Texas. I'm already looking forward to next year. Indy07 Indy06 Indy09